{2jtab: Movie Review}

Snowtown - Blu-ray Review


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4 stars

Ask any everyday law abiding person what they would do to a person who harmed or sexually abused their child, and I’m sure you would hear multitudes of graphic responses somewhat out of character. ‘I would kill them’, ‘tear their balls off and shove them down their throat’, ‘take to their fingers and toes with pliers’ are but a few; and I’m sure for most such violent descriptions, in any other context, would not sit well for the listener. But emotions have a way of clouding rational thought sometimes, don’t they? Even for ordinary people.

Psychopaths, those with no moral compass, sense of compassion or empathy, who can find such a niche, with vulnerable emotional people to listen, can thrive. Those graphic descriptions suddenly aren’t metaphors described in extreme anger with; they are reality. Australia watched stunned in the late 90s when a group of seemingly ordinary people, one of them really just a boy, were arrested for what was described as one of the most horrific crimes in the history of the country. Eleven people (proven; there is strong evidence to suggest there may have been more) lost their lives to the serial killer John Bunting and his small group of ordinary people—people who believed he was making the world a better place by killing child molesters.

Snowtown is a dramatization of those events, told through the eyes of the youngest member of Bunting’s murder posse: James Vlassakis. This is a young man who is sodomised by his older, stronger half-brother; who is trapped in a bleak, oppressive world he has little chance of ever escaping; that has no hope and no way out. That is until his mother introduces a new man into the family’s life: John Bunting. Through John, James begins to gain inner strength; to see hope spring from nothing. But once James is hooked into John’s act, the man he wanted so much to be his saviour starts pulling him into a world even darker than the one he wanted to escape.

This is a very difficult film to make, considering the subject matter. This is not Hannibal or Dexter. Whereas these fictional characters create audience sympathy, there is no such feeling toward Bunting. By making this story from the point of view of James, and having Bunting constantly bring up the injustices he perceives in the world to a receptive bunch around a dinner table, you understand how such horrors can rise from such banality. It’s terrifying in a way Dr Lector or Mr Morgan could never be: this man exists; he isn’t the first and won’t be the last, because we all like to see a bad guy get their comeuppance, don’t we? The road to hell is paved with good intentions, and, it seems there is nothing or no one more dangerous and destructive than a person who thinks they are doing the right thing.

This is also not Saw or Hostel. There is no gimmick to the violence; the limited amount that is depicted is more horrific than anything those films unleashed, and remains at all times an exploration of James’s decent into Bunting’s world and never a moment to glorify or sensationalise.

The performances are remarkably natural, from veteran and virgin actors alike. The production design’s oppressive palette helps them reproduce what a bleak and hopeless world these bastards came from. There is an authenticity to the whole production that effectively delivers its message: this can happen anywhere.

There is a slight lean toward artifice with editing and a few forced indie moments of unnecessary languishing landscapes and unsubtle metaphorical shots depicting crossroads, but it’s hardly detracting. This is a compelling cautionary tale; the great shame is that this actually happened and could happen again. Perhaps, the next time such an inflammable topic is raised in your presence, and someone you think is an everyday law abiding citizen spouts their wish for a wrongdoer’s ending, you might want to steer them towards this film. It is a brilliant, disturbingly poignant tale of the danger inherent in that way of thinking.

{2jtab: Film Details}

Snowtown - Blu-ray ReviewMPAA Rating: This title has not been rated by the MPAA.
: Justin Kurzel
: Shaun Grant & Justin Kurzel
Cast: Lucas Pittaway; Bob Adriaens; Louise Harris; Frank Cwiertniak; Matthew Howard
Genre: Crime | Thriller
Tagline: The Snowtown Murders
Memorable Movie Quote: "You don't want that, do you? When are you gonna grow some balls, mate?"
IF Midnight (USA) Madman Entertainment (Australia)
Home Video Distributor:
Revolver Entertainment
Release Date:
May 19, 2011 (Australia)
DVD/Blu-ray Release Date: March 19, 2012

Synopsis: Based on horrifying crimes discovered in Snowtown, Australia in 1999, Snowtown is Justin Kurzel's directorial debut, a stark journey into a brutal subculture of suspicion, addiction and violence. Winner of the Special Jury Prize at Cannes' Critics Week, the film follows Elizabeth Harvey (Louise Harris), a mother raising her three boys in a poor suburb. After her latest boyfriend displays pedophilic tendencies, she takes up with a new man, hoping for security but instead welcoming an even more vicious predator into her home. John Bunting (Daniel Henshall) is the moral compass of a self-appointed neighborhood watch who, fueled by cigarettes and beer, cast judgments on those living around them. Bunting enlists his crew in acts of sadistic vigilantism on those he considers deviants, and in the process takes Elizabeth's son Jamie (Lucas Pittaway) under his wing. The Snowtown Murders is an uncompromising film focused on the relationship between vulnerable teenager and a father figure who is revealed to be the worst kind of bully.

{2jtab: Blu-ray Review}

Snowtown - Blu-ray Review

Component Grades
Blu-ray Disc
4 stars
3 Stars
Blu-ray Experience
3.5 stars


Blu-ray Details:

U.K Release

Available on Blu-ray - March 19, 2012
Screen Formats: 1.85:1
: None
English: DTS-HD Master Audio 5.1; English: LPCM 2.0
Discs: 50GB Blu-ray Disc Single disc (1 BD)
Region Encoding: Region free

Deliberately ugly is the way I would describe this MPEG-4 high definition transfer. It’s grainy with muted colours, a lot of deliberate unfocused shots, and a true indie feel. Don’t expect a picture with a wow factor, but for what it is, it translates well. The sound has a DTS-HD 5.1 master and truly makes this unrelenting tale’s moments all the more disturbing. Special features are crap, to be blunt.



  • Feature-length commentary with director Justin Kurzel

Special Features:

  • Deleted Scenes
  • Original Casting Footage
  • The Snowtown Crimes
  • Q&A Session with Justin Kurzel, Jed Kurzel, and Lucas Pittaway
  • Theatrical Trailer

{2jtab: Trailer}